Direct support professionals, or DSPs, are at the heart of in-home and community-based disability services. DSPs deliver essential long-term supports that empower people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to live independently, work in the community, spend their days meaningfully, connect with family and friends, and more. ANCOR estimates that its members employ three-quarters of a million DSPs, who together support more than one in five people with I/DD in the US.
Despite the array of valuable supports DSPs deliver in every corner of this country, this is a workforce in crisis. Long-term underinvestment in Medicaid has led to stagnant reimbursement rates, which hampers the ability of providers to pay DSPs a living wage. At the median, DSPs earn just $12-13 per hour—well below many other hourly wage jobs like retail or fast food. In some cases, DSPs earn below the minimum wages mandated by state and local governments.
As a result, turnover and vacancy rates within the DSP workforce have skyrocketed in recent years, with turnover rates hovering just below 50% nationally and as many as one in eight DSP positions remaining vacant. The impact is devastating both for providers, and more importantly, the people they support—people for whom stability is often essential.
As an industry and as a society, we must do better.